Police suspect that Broncos wide receiver Kenny McKinley committed suicide earlier this week. Former Broncos defensive back D.J. Johnson, now a member of the Giants, thinks differently.
“I don’t think it happened the way they’re saying it happened,” Johnson said. “I just don’t. I don’t think it was a suicide. That’s my personal opinion on the situation. I think there’s something fishy about the situation.”
Johnson pointed to the fact that McKinley’s young son was in Denver – although not with McKinley at the time of the death – as a reason why he would not have killed himself.
“Knowing Kenny and knowing what type of guy he was and then having his son up there and the way he loved his son, I don’t think he would have did it with his son being up there,” Johnson said.
Arapahoe County Coroner Michael Dobersen said Tuesday that McKinley, 23, died of a gunshot wound to the head. He said a preliminary investigation “suggests the wound to be self-inflicted.”
So what does Johnson think happened?
“I know what the environment is like in Denver,” he said. “I knew Kenny and I knew the type of people that we all hung around. You just never know. You can’t trust nobody. He’s not from there, I wasn’t from there. Nothing against Kenny at all, but when you like to have a good time and you’re a friendly person, you let people into your environment.
“They warn you when you first get there,” he added. “Certain clubs, certain environments, you can’t do this, you can’t do that. But at the same time you always think ‘I can go and do it. I can go and hang here, I can hang with these certain people and nothing is going to happen to me.’ I’m not saying he was naive and he didn’t think that, but at the same time you don’t want to think the worst about everyone, you want to be able to enjoy yourself too.”
Johnson said he and McKinley did have fun together off the field. They socialized together during the offseason last year, when both were preparing for their first season with the Broncos. McKinley played in eight games in 2009 and was on injured reserve this season. Johnson wound up on the Broncos’ practice squad before being signed by the Giants in November.
“The whole offseason we basically hung out and had fun outside of football,” Johnson said. “There’s people bad everywhere, it’s just who you chose to socialize with. Everyone knows everyone in Denver, it’s a very small community. So it’s hard to get past all of the bad people.”
Denver has certainly had its share of tragedies in recent years. Cornerback Darrent Williams was killed in a drive-by shooting on New Year's Day 2007 and three months later backup running back Damien Nash – who Johnson coincidentally saw the weekend before his demise -- collapsed and died after a charity basketball game in St. Louis.
But Johnson said it’s not a situation unique to Denver.
“In any environment when you have guys in our position who are out having fun, and we’re going to the same environments as normal people and some convicts, however it may happen, it’s going to be an issue,” he said. “We have the financial backing to be able to go in there, have a good time, buy some bottles and stuff like that. Then there are going to be others that are going to look at it, going to see the women gravitate to that, so they’re going to try to match you. Then you get into a pissing contest. And when you get into a pissing contest, people get upset.
“When you get into a pissing contest, people get upset and they get mad about the littlest things, petty stuff. Just jealousy. That can lead to it.”
Johnson said when he heard about McKinley’s death – even before suicide was mentioned – he immediately figured that kind of “pissing match” had lead to the shooting.
“There was no ‘Did he do it?’” Johnson said. “It was just a thought that something happened, that somebody did something fishy.”